Have you played Ron Gilbert’s 1990 adventure game The Secret of Monkey Island? That might depend how old you are, or how interested you were in point and click adventure games in 2009, when the special edition was released.

The genre has been called dead before, but with the rise of digital distribution and indie game development, adventure games have proven they’re here to stay, in one form or another.

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Just before Monkey Island’s release, Gilbert wrote an article for Chris Crawford’s The Journal of Computer Game Design. The piece, titled “Why Adventure Games Suck,” detailed some rules of thumb he felt designers should consider in order to make their games more cohesive and accessible, and thus more entertaining.

In this video we’ll take a look at The Secret of Monkey Island through the lens of Gilbert’s design philosophies during the late 1980s. It’s worth noting that these rules were put on paper 30 years ago; as expected, Gilbert’s ideas have evolved since then.

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For Gilbert’s more recent musings, you can follow his blog, Grumpy Gamer.

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DISCUSSION

Great video, brought back so many memories... and I read the article too, good stuff in it. Monkey Island is still one of my all-time favorite games - have the boxed Amiga version I initially bought and the PC CD-ROM 1 & 2 double pack.

Prior to that the adventure games really did suffer from that need to save your game all the time - although I loved Larry, Space Quest and King’s Quest, which got me into PC-gaming in the first place, all that dying was really cumbersome.

Also the puzzles where you could forget stuff and not go back to bring the required item? I really loved Future Wars, a french point’n’click sci-fi adventure on the Amiga. It had great graphics and music, kind of like the Valerian comics (probably inspired from those). But that game makes pretty much all the mistakes on Gilbert’s list, so it was a chore to play - in the first location you had to pixel-spot a red pin on the floor, for example.

I also couldn’t get far in the Discworld adventure game on PC, since the puzzles were too random and with not enough hints to what to do next, that it killed all interest in progressing further.

Still, adventure games were the shit back then. Nowadays lots of those mechanics are baked into the quests of action/rpg games like the GTA or Elder Scrolls -series, so that’s probably part of what caused the fall in popularity of the slow-paced adventure games...

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